Monday, July 16, 2012

The Breastfeeding Debate

I read a tweet on Friday from @parentsmagazine that Massachusetts has enacted a law prohibiting hospitals from providing new mothers gift bags containing sample baby formula.  (Click here for a link to the full article )  Allegedly the goal is to promote breastfeeding. I know that breastfeeding is best. I really do. I also knew that since I  was pregnant with triplets they were not only going to be premature but breastfeeding was not going to be something I could jump into. One thing I definitely learned when I became a mom is that people have strong views on breastfeeding.

My sons were born at 33 and 1/2 weeks weighing 3lbs 12ozs, 2lbs 15ozs and 4lbs 1oz. I decided to pump in order to give my boys some breast milk but I was realistic that there was going to come a point when I could not keep up with the demand and formula was going to be necessary.   It took about 2-3 days for my milk to come in and almost a week before all three boys were eating. At the time they were too little to feed from my breast, they were actually fed with a tube and a syringe and would work up to a bottle.

The article mentions a dozen studies suggesting that new moms provided with formula samples are more likely to give up on breastfeeding by the time the child is a month old. I cannot imagine that is the driving force behind a new mom's decision not to breastfeed.

Breastfeeding is a very personal choice, one of the many, that a new mom or parents have  to make. So many considerations are a part of the choice to breastfeed or not.  For instance, I chose to pump because I had premature babies that were going to be in the hospital for a time and I had no other children at home.  It was going pretty well but it was hard to keep up when I was going back and forth to the hospital for three weeks.  As much breast milk I was able to bring in with me each day would run out by the time the boys were fed at night when I was not there.  I also thought it would be easier to pump and keep up with supply when the boys were home.  However, I found it very challenging.  The boys were between three and four weeks old when everyone came home from the hospital and they were eating every 3-4 hours.  I found myself either feeding the boys or pumping and this was when my husband was home with me to help.  I wasn't sure what I was going to do when he was not there to help.

It was a hard decision but I ended up giving up on the pumping when the boys were between 6 and 8 weeks old.  I will admit I felt pressure and guilt because I was not providing my children with breast milk.  In the end I knew that I was going to go back to work in a few months and pumping was going to be way too difficult. 

My particular situation is a bit unique, but, I do not think it is right to pressure women into breastfeeding.  I remember one nurse kept encouraging me to pump on one breast and feed a baby on the other.  For me that was not going to work.  I think people forget that breastfeeding can be difficult.  Some kids do not take to it naturally, some women do not take to it naturally and that is okay.  Some babies have to be in daycare, sometimes it is daddy staying at home and not mommy, sometimes it is another caregiver or member of the family and breastfeeding doesn't work and that is okay.  Sometimes people have other children at home they have to run after them and that is okay. And, of course, some women breastfeed and that is okay.  A woman should not be set up to feel like a failure because she chooses not to breastfeed.  One thing is for certain, it was not a sample of formula I received from the hospital that tipped the scales in favor of formula over breast milk.  Every persons situation is different and breastfeeding is a personal choice a woman needs to make for her and her child.

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